Bernard Hopkins isn't likely to be your favorite fighter if you prefer Lady Gaga to Diana Ross, Sam Bradford to Brett Favre, Lindsay Lohan to Hayley Mills or Buster Posey to Willie Mays.
In a society still marked by all sort of divisions, Philadelphia's sole remaining boxing icon, who turns 46 on Jan. 15, has settled comfortably into the role of unofficial spokesman for athletes of a certain age, a club with an understandably shrinking membership.
"Brett Favre got old," B-Hop noted yesterday at an open-to-the-media workout at the Joe Hand Boxing Gym in Northern Liberties when asked about the dramatically decreased productivity of the Minnesota Vikings' 41-year-old quarterback.
Was it only last year that Hopkins was comparing himself to Favre, who threw 33 touchdown passes with only seven interceptions in leading the Vikings to the NFC Championship Game? But Favre appears to have stuck around a season too long, thus becoming another entry for the thick file on the natural laws of diminishing returns.
Hopkins (51-5-1, 32 KOs) attempts to become the oldest professional boxer to win a world title when he challenges WBC and Ring magazine light-heavyweight champion Jean Pascal (26-1, 16 KOs) on Dec. 18 on Pascal's home turf of Quebec City, a bout that will be televised by Showtime. At 28, Pascal, a French Canadian who was born in Haiti, is 17 years younger than his ancient challenger. The canyonesque age gap is one reason why Hopkins is excited about his opportunity to teach another young whippersnapper a thing or two while adding to his own Hall of Fame-worthy legacy.
"Even though he has youth, I have knowledge and wisdom," Hopkins said.
Unlike narcissistic Baby Boomers hoping to cheat, or delay, the aging process with cosmetic surgery and white lies about their actual year of birth, Hopkins exults in the fact he is his sport's last dinosaur, a die-hard long marked for extinction by those who insist someone that old isn't supposed to still be this good.
"Father Time did come by and knock on my door a couple of times," said Hopkins, a raconteur who is always apt to give an entertaining, half-hour answer to a 10-second question. "He was yelling, 'Hey, Bernard! I know you're in there!' Well, yes, I am. But I'm not opening the door just yet."
Unfortunately, there is no magic formula for those in Hopkins' age group to purchase, which makes him special. He has lasted this long by declining many of the temptations that others can't resist, like that second helping of turkey and dressing on Thanksgiving followed by a big slice of the pecan pie a la mode. Nor does he drink, smoke, stay out late or indulge in the standard vices that can make a man old before his time.
"I am the most health-conscious, clean-living person," he continued. "When you have that mentality, it helps you buy more time.
"I am the warrior of longevity, if you do the right things early. People say 40 is the new 30. Not if you ain't done the right things in your 30s, in your 20s."
There are a lot of middle-aged folks with more paunch than punch whom he figures will be on his side because . . . well, just because.
"There are a lot of 40-year-olds and older who are going to be dropping their canes, putting in their false teeth and rooting for me," Hopkins said with an impish grin. "Everybody who has arthritis, all of a sudden their arthritis will be gone that night. I'm going to have all the nursing homes."
To Hopkins' way of thinking, Pascal - coming off an upset of Chad Dawson that has moved him to the brink of superstardom - can't help but to be suckered into believing the geezer in the other corner is on his last legs.
"He's going to want to impress everybody because he's young, he's the champion and he's fighting at home," Hopkins reasoned. "If I were Pascal, I'd jump on that old man and I would make him work, work, work. What other plan does he have? He's 28. He ain't running. He does not expect me to match his energy.
"But you know what? He throws wild punches, punches to knock you out. Those punches do not hit Bernard Hopkins."